The following is a guest post from Scott Grzybek, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the Wise Traditions conference back in November. His post covers not only his own personal story and experience with fermentation, but also why you would want to ferment your own food, and the cheerleading to do it!
Hi! I’m Scott Grzybek, the founder of Zukay Live Foods, and I’m a fermentation freak. Honestly, I’m not sure exactly why fermentation got its hold into me so hard, but it’s been a wonderful trip so far, so I’d love to share a little bit of my story and why I find fermentation so fascinating, healthy, and, well, magical –
A little background – over the years, I became a hardcore natural food person, trying to make sure what my wife and I ate was as healthy as possible. Being raised in relatively poor and rural Pennsylvania, it didn’t exactly come naturally, but we did our best. However, through the utter confusion of what is pushed in the media, I stopped eating most meats, milk, and all kinds of other good stuff, and replaced it with soy, whole grains, etc – and paid for it with a expanding gut and a lack of energy I had never had before in my life. Thankfully, I was given a copy of Nourishing Traditions by a friend – still, probably the best gift I received in my life. And I was hooked.
As a former engineer, I wanted to figure out how to make everything – the harder it looked, the better. But fermentation looked like the most mysterious of all the different types of foods in the book. Why? One word – whey. It was like this one magical, mystical ingredient that performed miracles on already healthy foods, but you can’t buy it, and it looked kind of daunting (dangerous, even!) to make it yourself. But, as a man on a mission, I finally got the courage to make my own, and I started to ferment everything I could get my hands on – every vegetable in my garden, grains, potatoes, fish, even corned beef (that one didn’t work out well, at least as far as my wife was concerned). Each new fermentation made me feel like a ancient alchemist, turning lead into gold. Some were better than others (I’ve got a few of my winners below), but each one made me more and more addicted to the process. After awhile, I came up with the idea for Zukay and bringing the health benefits of fermented foods to everyone’s table – but that’s another story.
So, why do you want to do your own fermentation? Perhaps you’ve read about the health benefits, perhaps not, so if you have, bear with me – because I personally think that eating raw and fermented foods are one of the best things you can do for your health (outside of getting rid of all refined sugars/high fructose corn syrup and refined flours, MSG, and Aspartame). You see, all health starts in the gut – and if your gut is bad, so goes the rest of your body.
Consider the probiotics in all raw and fermented veggies as Green Berets in the fight against disease – the more you intake, the better your chance of living a strong and healthy life. These wonderful little guys do all kinds of cool stuff – they kill off and take the place of bad bacteria and yeast, they actually aid in the physical and chemical digestion of food, and they even help train your immune system to work better by training it to better know friend from foe. They’re who you want on your side. And they like being in you, too – if you treat yourself well, you’re a mighty fine home for them as well. It’s a win-win situation.
But that’s not all. This is where I think it gets really cool. You see, these lactobacilli, in fermenting the foods, actually create vitamins and antioxidants that weren’t there before. It’s magic. AND! They even make the vitamins and minerals easier for your body to absorb. It’s almost unfair, in a good way. And personally, they’re super tasty. It may take a little while for you to get there – you certainly need to get used to the tart taste of any fermented food – but once you do, the flavor becomes so welcome, and I think it even weans your taste away from sweet foods (but that’s just my experience).
And it’s the ultimate fast food! Once you learn how to do it, you can set up a quart jar of fermented goodies in considerably less than an hour. Once it’s in the jar, the probiotics do the rest – you just have to make sure they’re in a 65-75 F place away from direct sun, and come back to it at your leisure. Once it’s done to your liking, pop the jar in the frig and eat from it whenever you like. Don’t know what to cook for vegetables tonight? Don’t worry! It’s in a jar in the frig! And it’s crazy healthy!
I’ll be honest with you – my family has never had health problems, so I can’t tell you that fermented foods have “made” us healthy. It may have been part of my weight loss (about 25 lbs) after I got serious about the Nourishing Traditions way, but I chalk that more up to getting rid of grains and sugar than anything else. But I will say this – we eat fermented foods pretty much every night (and some mornings – raw sauerkraut goes SO well with egg yolk from a fried egg), and my wife and my 2 sons almost never get sick and we have no digestive issues. My oldest did get severe pneumonia and ear infections when he was very, very young, and was unfortunately doused with antibiotics for some time, but constant fermented foods and kefir kept him healthy throughout, and there were no long term (or really even short-term) effects from the medicines. He’s not missed a day of school in several years, even during this killer winter. And he loves sauerkraut (he calls it Wowerkraut!), daikon, green beans, carrots, and, of course, Zukay products.
If you’ve never done it before, here’s my suggestion: make some sauerkraut. It’s easy, and you don’t need any starter, as sauerkraut starts itself (assuming you’re using organic cabbage). When it’s done, use the juice as a starter for other ferments – and on, and on. If you need a starter, I use yo’Kefir culture (available in most natural food stores) – 1 packet in a quart of water gives you enough starter for 4 quart jars of whatever.
And have fun! Outside of rotting (which you’ll be able to tell real quickly), there’s no right or wrong. Experiment! Throw in all kinds of cool stuff! And enjoy the magic of fermentation!
Scott founded Zukay Live Foods in 2008 to bring the health benefits of raw and fermented foods back into the American diet through foods we already use. Zukay makes delicious and healthy salsas, relishes, and salad dressings, and will shortly be launching a line of tasty veggie drinks (kvass) very, very soon. If you have any questions about fermentation or Zukay products, he’d love to talk to you at [email protected], and you can check out Zukay at www.zukay.com.